Jul 012014

rejections(skip to bottom for the big reveal if you get bored)

In some of my spare time, I try to write Speculative Fiction. I’ve written a half-dozen stories, and every now and then I get people asking me “Why don’t you just self-publish online?” At the most basic level it isn’t terrible difficult, and I already have three years experience publishing this podcast thing. What’s the hold-up?

And my answer is always that I don’t know if I’m good enough to be worth it. There’s already tons of free fiction out there (some of it very good!), and I don’t need to be clogging up the inter-tubes with crap. Of course I think what I write is great, but I’m probably the least qualified person in the entire world to judge the quality of my work. And I can’t entirely trust my friends/loved ones either, as they also have a vested interest in not hurting my feelings. Even when trying to be impartial, simply knowing the author can often make things seem cooler than they would be to a neutral 3rd party.

It’s probably well-known that 99% of authors don’t make crap for money. Almost all of them have day jobs, the money from writing is not enough to support even a single person. We write because we love writing, not because there’s money in it. So why try to get money at all? Why not just self-publish everything?

Because the barrier that is money keeps you honest. If I just put up anything I write, I don’t know if it’s any good. In fact I had a very visceral demonstration of this once… I went back to the first story I’d written about 6 months after I first put it to paper and re-read it. When I’d first written it I thought it was amazing and brilliant and would win all sorts of awards. Upon re-reading it 6 months later I saw how crappy it was, and how much work it needed simply to get to not-being-pure-suckitude. Never had I been happier that instead of simply publishing it online I’d sent it around to get rejected by several magazines.

“Will an editor pay money for this” is a bit of a lower-boundary on quality, for me. I still don’t know if my stuff is good. But if someone is willing to shell out a few hundred dollars in the expectation that they’ll make that money back, it says to me that it is at least not terrible. It is the most honest barometer I know of right now.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying: I just sold a story for the first time! :D I’ll post more when I know more, but it’ll be coming out in Asimov’s sometime in the near future!

(In the tradition of Racheal Acks, above is a picture of all the rejections I’ve received up to the date of my first sale. Not all for the sold story, of course.)

  3 Responses to “Step Two Complete!”

  1. Step 3: ????
    Step 4: PROFIT

    Firstly, congrats.

    I find it odd that you equate self-publishing with zero income. Pretty sure there are authors out there that made cash in self-pub – Correia being one – and then moved to traditional publishing once they’d proven the viability of their product. Wouldn’t it also feel awkward moving from free via self-pub to charging for your work?

    Makes me (as a gamer) think of Steam Greenlight. Anyone can put any game they’ve made on Greenlight, and the community votes whether or not it should become available on the platform. You get a lot of not-so-great stuff coming through, because people essentially want to support the creative endeavours of others, but it’s a neat way to get some positive reinforcement and an outside perspective.

    • Thanks! :)

      I don’t equate self-publishing with zero income. I’m familiar with quite a few successful self-published authors, and followed the Hugh Howey vs Chuck Wendig kerfuffle with a great deal of interest. Rather, I equate all writing with insignificant income. It’s not 99% of self-published authors that hold down day jobs because they don’t make enough money writing… it’s 99% of ALL authors. The few people who can make a living soley off writing are very rare — self-published *or* traditionally-published.

      As I have a decent day job, the money isn’t really a concern, which is why people asked me why I didn’t just self-publish, and thus my answer about using money as a quality-control method.

      • Huh. Looking at that post, I see your point with regard to Amazon as gatekeepers, but then again… not having any regard for the fields to which they control access is pretty much the standard. Companies are run by execs, not enthusiasts, for the most part. The tv/entertainment industry, for instance, is doing a grand old job of fscking itself over in copyright disputes, and before that it was the music industry. Apple has built itself a nice little reputation for going overboard with app store regulation, ebook regulation, music regulation…

        It’s hard to side against Amazon when you see writers pulling stunts like this though: Techdirt on authors vs. Amazon

        Those authors are pretty clearly not very clued, and thus make a bad example – but it’s the kind of example that shows up bloody everywhere. People misunderstand, take sides, views get conflated and you get one side arguing Amazon as saints and the other side romanticising traditional publishers.

        (it’s sort of a side interest and I figured commenting on your old post would be akin to necromancy)

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